Get Started By Telling Your Student Debt Story

My name is Kwame and I have $50,000 in student loan debt. I went to college off and on, mostly part time for 10 years to get my degree. Even working full-time, often two jobs, sometimes three I had to get loans every semester to pay for school. But I did it because I was convinced that it would all pay off when I finally had that degree.

I graduated in late 2009 with a degree in Industrial Design and things were looking up for a while. I got a job in my field almost right away and although I wasn’t being paid what I should for my position and market I was doing interesting work and I thought I was starting a career. I worked there almost 10 years and was underpaid the entire time. Nickel and dimed everytime I brought up salary and made promises of salary parity at some vague point in the future. Then mid least year they called me in, told me they were in extreme financial trouble and would have to cut my pay 10%. That was the final straw. That 10% cut put me 35% under market. I was unable to pay my mortgage and was forced to sell my house and move out of state . I had been job hunting for almost two years at that point and it was becoming increasingly clear that no one was interested in hiring me. I don’t know why. I did good work. I have 15 design patents, designed over 400 products in that time, a handful of which are bestsellers on Amazon. These days I scrape together a living working retail and gig economy jobs. I couldn’t make those loan payments even if I wanted to. My $50k degree isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.

The kicker for me is I’ve been paying my loans every month for 10 years. $600 a month for a decade and the principal is the same as when I started. I was just throwing money into a hole in the ground. I’ve had enough.


I enrolled in college at 40 years old. I was a single mother of two at the time and that was in 2002. I began in a local college, then transferred to an accredited online school, where I earned a BBA by 2006. Before college, I was earning $12 an hour at a local hardware store and today, in 2020, I work in a large maunfacturing company, doing what I love, but I am only earning $17 an hour.

So in an 18 year period, I have only increased my wages by $5 an hour. The colleges promised my income would double at graduation and I never even got interview calls. Where I work currently, did hire me because of my degree. Today, I do not earn enough to pay for the $77,000 student loan debt or the $296.00 a month they want, based on my household income.

I was still a single parent when I graduated, but federal government is punishing my husband and force him to co-sign my renewal application every year when I apply for the income-based repayment loan. When I have called in protest to these high payments, the collection debt does not care that I have rent to pay or a car payment. The debt-to-income ratio on a federal level is ridiculous to say the least. They do not factor in current inflation versus current wages. I am now 58 years old and I am not able to even buy a home with this debt over my head. I keep deferring since I cannot afford the payments so I stay out of default.

My now 36 yr old son did not do a deferrment. He went in default and now he gets almost $200 taken out of his paychecks, they take his tax returns, and he lives in a one bedroom, low-income apt with his son because that’s all he can afford. He never even finished his associates degree and he is being severely punished, in my mind, for trying to improve his life 15 years ago.

We cannot wait until something is done!!! Thank you for giving us hope!! :slight_smile:


Hello I’m Nichole,

I took out approximately 80k in student loans, half federal half private. Would have been less but when the market crashed in '08 I had to take more just to finish my degree. I have a bachelor’s in Art with a concentration in animation (specifically computer animation). I always hear “that should get you a great job”, it didn’t. It is an extremely competitive field and I graduated when a lot of the smaller animation studios went under. No one was hiring, I could do an unpaid internship but with loans coming due it wasn’t happening. I couldn’t even get my portfolio in the door, it sent me into a spiral of depression. When things began to get better I was in competition with a lot of experienced animators. I’ll admit I stopped trying, I was way behind on software and I would go months without even picking up my sketchbook. The depression and anxiety were very real. Eventually I stopped putting off life, we have two beautiful boys now. But in the process of trying to pay these loans off while working low paying jobs has led to three bankruptcies. I put almost 37k toward my private loans and it didn’t put a dent in the principal. After the last bankruptcy I told my husband we weren’t paying the private and now were playing financial chicken with National Collegiate. I’m honestly over all of it. The interest rates, the tuition costs, its ridiculous. I told my son if he wants to be an animator/artist I’ll teach him, he doesn’t need a degree for that field anyway.

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I’m somewhere in the neighborhood of $50K in student loan debt with the interest continuing to grow. If I knew what I know now I would have dropped out years before finishing my degree which got me know where in the real world. Guidance counselors, college deans and all staff that were there to ‘help’ pushed me to stay when I didn’t have a future based on the education I was there for.

I ended up becoming a felon while attending school early on with a plan to go onto graduate school. I could never get accepted to a post grad school because of it and before anyone gets the wrong idea, I never was arrested. NO jail or prison time. That didn’t prevent the school from telling me I can still use the degree to get a job. I was in an undergrad program for Exercise Science/Kinesiology.

My taxes were collected in an offset last year and now with tax season beginning this year my anxiety is getting the better of me. I paid very little in taxes and am sure I will owe this year. I keep making arrangements for my loans so I don’t default and then the loan moves to another creditor and it takes weeks to months to find out where it is and that all the paperwork I had done was for nothing.

I am the only income for a family of 6 but I can only claim 1 child and my spouse. The other kids live with me anywhere between 3 to 6 days a week but am not able to claim them and on top of that I pay for their school items and programs but tax wise it means nothing.

Saying that my student loan debt is crippling is an understatement. I can’t make my monthly minimum payments and I am looking for others that want the madness to end. No one trying to have a career should be forced to take on massive debt with very low success in having a future in a field that was studied.

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I took on almost $ 200K for two graduate degrees. My earnings went up, and I repaid about $80K.

My circumstances changed, and I haven’t paid anything in years. And I’m not going to.

The banks took on a bad loan in my case, and they should write it off. I’m not even fighting them. I see it as a vow of poverty in exchange for a good education.

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Update: It’s February 8th 2020. I am in debt for student loans (around $50,000+) graduated in 2017 from a for profit college. I am 29 years old. I have $2.50 in my apartment.

I can’t afford basics of rent and a phone each month.

I haven’t been able to hold down a job related to my field of study.

There are not many jobs in my field, which is contradictory to my college’s marketing.

I have a disability which makes my job application process a much smaller number of places.

I have a marginalized identity, which makes my job application pool even smaller.

My financial duress is increased because of a recent divorce.

I am on food stamps and medicaid. My food stamps will run out in April because of arbitrary federal mandate that I have to work a certain number of hours a month to qualify for the ability to eat.

My cosigner has been paying my student loans each month and I am lucky for their gracious actions. They want me to pay them back when I get back into financial stability. I let them know I am paying them back when I can afford to.

I want to debt strike, but my cosigner’s credit would be adversely effected if I did, and there are things that are important to their survival in their credit score.

I’m currently seeking for a job every day, maintaining my mental health, physical health, and keeping my spirits up, despite all reality is telling about my hopes for a future.

Thanks America.

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First, I want to say, Thank You, for providing a place where people can come together in solidarity, as well as in solace. I “know” there are people like me out there, but it’s another thing altogether to be able to see their stories first-hand and share in their hopes for a better tomorrow.

I went back to school at the young age of 45. I had always wanted to complete my Bachelor’s and then perhaps go on to my Master’s. As a would-be social worker, I recognized the need to finish my degree so that I could advance further in my field. When I first applied to go back to school, I was not married. When I began to attend, I was (I had to wait a year for state residence requirements) and the school let me know in no uncertain terms that because my wife made more in her early retirement than allowed, I was not eligible for grants or scholarships through the school. That’s right - my wife was receiving retirement benefits from the County (retired early) and because she made over the threshold, I was told I no longer qualified for grants. To add insult to injury, I was told I could divorce my wife since we were only a year married and that I would then qualify. I was devastated, but plugged along because I needed to complete that magic degree - right?

Since I was not eligible for grants and scholarships, I had to pay out of pocket for books and other necessities, as well as parking pass, food, and so on. So I pulled out that magic credit card - they don’t tell you that you cannot consolidate that card with loans later on down the line because it’s a personal line of credit. Yay!

The two and a half years to complete my undergraduate cost 24k just in loans. I was invited to apply to my Master’s degree program by one of my professors - I was immediately accepted into the program. Without hesitation, I signed the loan docs for the Master’s program and was awarded the full loan - another 42k. Yep, just in student loans, in 4.5 years, I walked away owing 66-thousand dollars.

I graduated in 2016, just about 4 years ago, but I had to get a job in a similar field than my degree so that I could accrue hours that I could eventually apply to my license. That means, for those who know, one is hired in a menial position with little to no pay (at least not what one is worth), just so one can begin to pay bills. Last year I was finally licensed in my field (3 years later) and am now beginning to see the fruits of my labor - but it is not without some difficulty. My payments to the Great Lakes is about a third of my income just to pay down the INTEREST on my loans. To date I have paid off over $16,725.00 in interest with little to no dent in the principle. My calculated pay-off amount today is the same as it was 3 years ago when I began paying on my loans. And that does not include the money on my credit card from books and other costs.

I am now 53 and am looking at the prospect of not being able to retire until I am at least 72 - just so I can pay off my loans.

The worst part is, that had I known at the time, I could have gone to Mexico with my mother’s citizenship and gone to school for free. That’s right - Mexico offers free university education, but the USA does not. Yes, I would have to have paid for books and sundries, as well as other administrative and education costs, along with housing - but I would not have had to pay 66k for my education even with all those things! That, to me, is very sad - that a “s***-world” country can offer low to free cost education, but an alleged “first-world” country cannot (or will not).

I’m not in as bad of a situation as many stories I hear and have read, but I think of how much of that 16k I could have put back into my community in food, clothing, car repairs that have been forgone because of the student loan debt. However, am not in a position where I can just stop paying on my loans like many have done. Having my own business and a house means I have to pay to maintain my credit ratings just so I can survive in this cut-throat game of debt resolution.

Thank you, for providing an open place where people can share their stories.

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Hi, I’m Annette. I graduated with my master’s degree in 2011, with about $145,000 in student loan debt, both private and federal loans (mostly federal). My private loans have all been paid off, and i now owe $156,000 because of interest accruing over the last 9 years and being on a payment plan since I consolidated my loans. If I wasn’t on a payment plan, i would owe upwards of $1800 a month in my student loans, which is more than what I pay in rent.

I’ve been part of the student loan forgiveness plan for the last 4-5 years, but according to the government i won’t reach my 120 payments until 2024, which is inaccurate because I started paying on my loans in 2011. I have no hope that the forgiveness plan won’t implode on itself, and I’ll be stuck with this debt until I die.

I’m fortunate in that I have a good paying job, with great health insurance, and I can afford to pay my loans each month and survive and build a small savings. But at this rate, I’m at the point of leaving the non profit sector and the forgiveness plan to get a job in tech to make more money to actually be able to pay my loans off. There is literally no light at the end of the tunnel for me when it comes to my student loan debt.

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Hello, I’m Jamey. I have almost $140,000 in student debt, the majority of that being from my MSW (master of social work) at a “nonprofit”, private university: Loyola University in Chicago.

I took out these loans planning to utilize the Public Service Loan Forgiveness, a plan that was crafted several years before the first eligible borrowers should have earned forgiveness in 2017/18, and we learned a tiny minority did, and we learned this program is a sham. I currently work at a large, well-known nonprofit earning $33,000 per year. I have no semblance of an idea how I will get rid of my debt, which accrues godawful interest that I don’t have the heart to calculate. I want to strike, but my credit score is so average I struggle getting apartments with it. Whether or not I can strike immediately, I am here to organize and increase collective action for these issues. I would love to discuss this with anyone else in Chicago or Illinois, please reply if you are nearby.

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Hey there! I’m in Chicago too and I feel you! I got my masters from DePaul University in 2017 with the hope of earning more in Chicago - especially (and also) at a nonprofit. I’m earning close to 67k a year but my student loan debt is around 120k right now which is about $1100 a month. Private and federal. Add in expensive housing in Chicago, car payment/insurance and credit card debt equates to living paycheck to paycheck for as long as I can remember. I have been discouraged to join the Public Service Forgiveness program because of the reasons you state. At this point, the only thing that’s given me hope is if Warren or Sanders takes office. They are the only ones who can make this right. Until then, I’m trying not to dwell on the fact of how different my life would be if half of my paycheck didnt go to minimum payments of my student loans. AND I was thinking today how if I didn’t have so much debt, I wouldn’t have to work a job that I’m not passionate about. My job is not want I want to be doing professionally and has NOTHING to do with my masters degree but I feel obligated to stay because I know the job I really want wouldn’t come close to paying my monthly bills/student loan payments. Sigh.

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I have about 70,000 in student debt…started at about 30,000 and because of life it has more than doubled. I also am in public service field and becaz I consolodated before 2001, I am uneligible for loan forgiveness or any income based repayment plans. I was mistakenly put on income based and when I went to re-instate annually, I was told that I should have never received. My loan service is Great Lakes and I have been working on this since denied last year. I even had a Kansas leader , try to assist me…no good. Any one else going through this?


If you want to get on a call and talk about your tax off set situation. I would be happy to. In the meantime, you have the right to file for a tax extension. And to delay filing until later in the year. I would strong suggest you consider this as an option as you look into ways to protect yourself from tax offset. We can talk about some options.


Hey there, I want to put you in touch with one of our organizers that will be in Chicaog at an event this weekend. If you can make it tomorrow you could meet him and learn more about the student debt strike. I will DM you the info.

Just want to chime in really fast and say thank you to the individuals that have added their story in this space.

We know that many of us are living on the edge of absolute crisis in our lives as a direct impact of student debt. And I know first hand, because I worked in Financial Aid, that is not what was promised to borrowers. And without even knowing how unbearable the debt would be…we all signed up. We were given no other option then to go into massive debt. They said, oh don’t worry you will be more employable if you take the debt and get the degree. Student and Parent Borrowers have been misled and lied to.

What makes it worst is that it DOES NOT have to be this way. And only 2 generation ago, it WAS NOT like this. folks did not have student debt.

Matter fact! Student debt wasn’t even considered significant to measure back in 1999. Now we see it is jumped drastically in that span of time to $1.7 Trillion effecting 45 million debtors.

If you are on strike, be sure to add your name. If you are not on strike but would consider striking in the future, or if you are just in solidarity. Be sure to declare it and join us at


I graduated in 96, took loans out because I was single parent of 3 boys an no support. I am almost 60 and loans have more than doubled. We that went to school back then are not eligible for income based and many other options. I was told best to consolodate before 2001 and this locked me out. Sure I am not the only one!!!

Continuing the discussion from Get Started By Telling Your Student Debt Story:

Hi my name is Ruben and I have a 48,000.00 federal student loan. 24,000.00 of that is interest. I went to a technical school for less than a year and was charged full price. I did 1 semester and charged full price. This is unheard of.

My name is Leeanne but most people call me Kit or Sinthea. I’ve got $47k in student loan debt.

My mentally and emotionally abusive husband picked my university and degree- a Associates Degree in Admin assistant concentrating on medical billing and coding through AIU Online. Now that I’m older and wiser, I see how they are expensive compared to their competitors and how having a online degree itself would handicap me in the job market but I didn’t then, not that I had all the say in the world.

I graduated in 2012 and while I was going to school the coding language changed from ICD9 to ICD10. I reached out to ask what we would be taught and was ignored. At that point my marriage was falling apart and I was pulled in all sorts of directions. They taught me I Icd9 and I was unable to get certified as I wasn’t taught to correct language. I’ve deferred as much as I can and put off the loan as much as I can but I’m terrified if I can’t find a job maying above minimum wage that when the loan comes due we’ll bankrupt.

My 2nd husband and I have already gone through bankruptcy once and I was told last year by the lawyer there was nothing that could be done on my student loans. Now I hear different and I wish I could go back and get them taken care of too. We’re making ends meet with one income but just nearly.

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Hello, my name is Katherine. After taking classes for three years or so , I was informed that unless I paid $1,000.00 I couldn’t take anymore because my financial aid had run out. Due to my husband and I not working, I couldn’t afford it, therefore I couldn’t take anymore classes. A few years later, my husband and I separated and my daughter and I moved back to Arizona with my mom. When my mom lost her house, we moved again, forwarding the mail to the new address like most people would. With my luck, the papers saying they were going to garnish my wages came but went to my previous address. Needless to say, by the time I received them, it was too late. I missed the deadline explaining my finances and why I couldn’t afford to pay. By this time, I was working and they started garnishing my wages. But because of that, and being a single parent, my daughter and I are forced to live with my mom because I can’t afford to pay rent unless we don’t use the utilities or have food to eat. As of now, my student loan is around $90,000.00 so I’ll never be able to buy a house, go on vacation, etc. I think it sucks paying that much for a degree i was never able to get. If I couldn’t pay $1000.00 to take another class, what makes them think I can afford to pay off $90,000.00 for the rest of my life? Lol

I owe 100,000.00. I will not pay, ever! I am thinking on moving out of country. Have tried working with Dept. Of Ed. at every turn have been told paper work is not good enough. Received a call from Attorney General Office and the man on the phone was laughing. Told Attorney General to kiss my ass.

Over 100K in student loan debt after I obtained my Masters in Ed. I applied and received acceptance to the Federal Student Loan forgiveness program and paid a hefty 500+ per month for over three years and the principal just kept getting higher every year, not lowering my debt one bit! I have stopped paying and am not able to find a bank that can offer a consolidated personal loan. My stress is high. I teach math and science in a title 9 school. I would and could pay back a loan if it made sense and the terms are reasonable, like being able to reduce the principal by 100-150/month; I’d pay 500+/mos so that I could prove my credit score and move forward.